This one goes to Eleven: Craig Hall

If you were to put a face to the future of Vancouver independent theatre, it might look a bit like Craig Hall’s. Young, energized, overworked and perhaps spread a little thin…this is the price of being a trailblazer. He wears big hats on both sides of the playing field; as an artist and an administrator. Already the Artistic Director of Rumble Productions, Vancouver’s All-Terrain Theatre Vehicle, Craig is a theatre-maker (Read this wonderful origin story of Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut, the play he put together with collaborator James Long and several others) and a highly-praised and in-demand Director-around-town, and was just bumped up from Vice-President of the See Seven Performing Arts Society to President by past President Diane Brown.

Nobody’s going to accuse Craig of not doing his part for this city’s independent theatre industry.

craigruns1

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Strapped. For time and money, but who isn’t. I’m learning to make the best of it.

2. In as many words as you care to use, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

Theatre makers in this city are starting to take bigger risks, to be more rigorous in their craft and to challenge the perception that theatre is medicine (supposed to be good for you but sometimes it tastes foul and more often than not it makes you drowsy). We are poised, I think, to make work that is undeniable.

3. How does your work as an arts administrator fuel your work as a theatre artist, and vice versa?

I’m not sure that they fuel each other. When I started at Rumble, they were like a couple of selfish siblings each yanking on a pant leg and demanding more attention than a person could possibly provide. I’ve had to learn to lock one in a room while dealing with the other. If there is a positive aspect to the relationship, I guess it could be in the way that the admin work can inform the artistic work. On several occasions I have cracked a piece by being forced to articulate the projects process and goals to funders.

4. Please explain the vision behind See 7.

I wasn’t around in the early days of See 7, but my understanding is that it was founded at a time when Vancouver’s independent theatre companies were struggling to build audiences. The thought was that amalgamating the works of a number of companies into an affordable subscription series would garner some much needed profile and would encourage audiences to take a risk on something new. It worked. This lead to a number of copy cat initiatives popping up all over North America. See 7 is still very popular with audiences, and the passes are still selling out every year.

5. What do you know about theatre that you didn’t before creating Clark and I Somewhere in Connecticut?

A great many things. I know that the general public has very little knowledge about how theatre is made and that this mystery can work for and against us. I know that words make theatre artists accountable to our subjects in a way that visual artists are not. I know that Lawyers are expensive. I know that honesty is almost always the best policy. I know that a little controversy can get you a lot of attention. I know that by putting an actor in a fuzzy bunny suit and pointing a bunch of high wattage theatre lights at him, you can create some very bad smells.

bunnysuit

6. What’s your best advice to young companies just starting to build for the long haul?

Don’t get ahead of yourself. Enjoy being a project based company for as long as you can because as soon as you become an operating company you will be beholden to an incredible amount of bureaucracy and there is no going back. Be uncompromising. Don’t let things like funding, unions and lack of facilities stop you from making your art. Also, don’t feel beholden to some antiquated idea of how theatre gets made.

7. What can we as a community be doing better towards establishing a new generation of theatre-goers?

I think the best way to establish a new generation of theatre goers is to support a new generation of theatre makers. They are the ones that will make work that is relevant to young audience. They are the ones that will be able to frame ideas and stories in a way that is accessible for those audiences. They are the ones that will eventually make theatre cool again so it behooves us to give them money, space and mentorship.

8. If you were given one million dollars towards the improvement of the indie theatre industry in Vancouver, how would you spend it?

I would buy a building and create a dedicated creation/rehearsal space. It would be large enough and malleable enough to approximate any of the stages in town. It would be fully equipped with lighting and sound, allowing you the option to introduce design elements into your creation process far earlier. You would have the option to rehears on your actual set, under your actual lights and to see and hear your show in its entirety before you ever hit the theatre. This would likely cost far more than one million dollars but what the hell.

9. What’s your favourite career moment to date?

I think working on both incarnations of Hive ranks right up there. First working with that incredible group of artists and seeing them take so much joy in the risk and the chaos. Then seeing audiences embrace the event without prompting from critics.

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

A Director Prepares by Anne Bogart (How many times has this one been mentioned? She is a genius without pretension.)

What is Scenography by Pamela Howard (Mara Gottler turned me on to this one. A view of collaborative theatre from the perspective of a master designer. Valuable for everyone.)

Experts of the Every Day. The Theatre of Rimini Protokoll. (In truth I’m just reading this one now but I’m loving it. Picked it up at the PuSh Festival this year after hearing their Manifesto at the PuSh Assembly. I am fascinated by their work.)

11. What’s next?

Rumble is co-producing (with Theatre Conspiracy) David Harrower’s Olivier award winning play Blackbird in March. One of the best play’s that I’ve read in some time, directed by one of Vancouver’s most underrated Directors (Norman Armour). Really looking forward to it. I’m also directing a show called Jocasta at Studio 58. It is part of a seven play cycle called City of Wine (by Playwright Ned Dickens, based on the city of Thebes) commissioned by Toronto’s Nightswimming. The seven plays are being produced by different theatre schools across Canada throughout the year. All seven shows will then travel to Toronto in May to be presented at Theatre Passe Muraille.

This One Goes to Eleven: Laura Efron

The key to the success of our industry, in my opinion, is dedicated and impassioned arts administrators. Laura has been a soldier in that cause for years now, and I’m thrilled to welcome her to TOGtE.

She has worked with many Vancouver arts orgs, among them See Seven, the Jessie Richardson Awards Society, Pacific Theatre and Down Stage Right Productions. Laura has worked extensively with the Arts Club, for which she held the positions of Annual Campaigns Manager, Marketing Coordinator and Executive Assistant. In July 2006 she moved on from there to become the General Manager of Rumble Productions, “Vancouver’s All-Terrain Theatre Vehicle”.

And if that’s not enough, she’s also put in time as a Stage Manager.

In short, she’s part of the solution.

1. In one word, describe your present condition.

Contemplative.

2. In whatever number of words you need, describe the present condition of the Vancouver theatre scene.

There seems to be a lot of recognition in recent years of Vancouver’s innovation, site-specific theatre and independent theatre. This is being identified nationally, if not internationally. There also seems to be encouraging growth in audiences in certain areas such as Arts Club subscribers and attendees at the PuSh Festival and Bard on the Beach. I think it’s a really vibrant and exciting time for theatre in Vancouver. If only we had more funding…

3. Please give us an overview of your role and responsibilities as the G.M. of Rumble.

The General Manager is responsible for financial and administrative management of the company including marketing, fundraising, grant writing, and general operations. I work closely with Artistic Producer Craig Hall, as well as with our Board of Directors.

4. Why is Rumble “Vancouver’s All-Terrain Theatre Vehicle”?

Our mandate is broad in that it encompasses multidisciplinary works, collaboration (locally, nationally and internationally) and risk-taking. With all of those variables, Rumble has done everything from new play development to radio plays to arts publications to emerging arts festivals. There are endless possibilities.

5. How has Rumble’s vision evolved since its inception in 1990?

The company has clearly grown from a mere idea from founders Norman Armour and Chris Gerrard-Pinker to the well-respected mid-size theatre company it is today.

Rumble has become a proven leader in the development and growth of Vancouver’s independent theatre scene. One initiative that has evolved substantially is the PuSh Festival (originally developed by Rumble and Touchstone Theatre) The original idea of presenting a series of local, national and international works has now become an enormously successful and internationally recognized festival. Also, the idea of Rumble mentoring emerging artists has been growing over the years, and the implementation of TREMORS: Rumble’s Festival of Emerging Arts is a result of the growth of that idea.

6. Resolved: The Stage Manager is the most vital component of the production. Please argue the affirmative.

As an occasional Stage Manager myself, I have to agree! There can be great ideas, amazing talent and immense creativity but if there is no Stage Manager to organize it all, bring it all together and make it happen, there would be no show. For example, rehearsals would be challenging without any actors, if there were no Stage Managers to let them know where they should be and when. Plus, Stage Managers have the power to plummet all performers into total darkness at any given time, so love and respect your SMs!

7. What is theatre’s responsibility to its community?

I think the theatre should be communicating ideas with an attempt to have an audience understand them, whether they are unconventional ideas or not. I think it’s the theatre’s responsibility to recognize that there are different needs that theatre fills, and that they aren’t the same for everyone—some may seek mere entertainment, others may seek healing, challenge, creative outlets or forums for exploring ideas.

8. How do you see Hive evolving in the coming years?

I think the creative minds behind HIVE will come up with some other new collective concept, but I don’t know if we will necessarily see HIVE itself evolving past this year’s incarnation at the Magnetic North Theatre Festival. We shall see!

9. Any ideas on how to cultivate a new crop of dynamic arts administrators here?

Good question. Recruit disgruntled government workers (bursting to break through all that red tape) or people from the film industry (who might welcome our “short” working hours)? Offer a lifetime supply of comps for every arts organization in the Lower Mainland to make up for the pay cut they’ll have to endure?

10. What are your top 3 theatre reads?

If I ever manage to find the time to read, I tend to read books that aren’t about theatre!

11. What’s next?

Hopefully, a vacation! Then some plotting for the future—we’ll be developing a number of projects over the next year or two. Then there will be frantic grant writing to make the plotting come to fruition!